Justice, Koster Win Awards for Teaching

“I was very honored but overwhelmed,” Ann Justice said about winning an Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award. “It feels wonderful that people think that highly of me, but it puts a lot of pressure on you that you want to be doing the right thing all the time.” (Photo by Steve Bowman)

By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit

Two teachers in the Brentwood School District recently received Emerson Excellence in Teaching Awards. The honors are bestowed annually on about 100 St. Louis area teachers, in kindergarten through college, who are nominated by their employers.

The BSD nominated Ann Justice, a first-grade teacher at Mark Twain Elementary School. The Special School District of St. Louis County nominated Shannon Koster, who teachers special education at Brentwood High School.  Both received their awards at a Nov. 10 reception at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton.

A district is allowed to nominate only one teacher for every 500 teachers it has, so Justice was Brentwood’s lone nominee. Koster was one of five nominated by the SSD, which has about 2,700 teachers.

Shannon Koster teaches special education at Brentwood High School, her father’s alma mater. “He graduated in 1947 so it is kind of funny that I am teaching at the same high school where he was just a lad,” she said. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Shannon Koster

It’s good that Shannon Koster is detail oriented, or she might not have found out that she’d won an Emerson award. A couple of months ago she was flipping through a stack of mail when she saw a letter from Emerson, the St. Louis company best known for manufacturing power equipment.

“I thought it was junk mail,” she said.

But instead of tossing it she dutifully opened the envelope and learned of her award.

“I was totally shocked,” she said. “It wasn’t even on my radar.”

Koster teaches special education in grades nine through 12. It’s her 24th year with the Special School District of St. Louis County and her 22nd year in Brentwood. In March she was one of 10 SSD teachers to receive the organization’s Keys to the Classroom Award, which recognizes creativity, innovation and commitment to students.

On top of her teaching duties, she’s the BHS faculty sponsor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, she and her husband Bill sponsored Project Graduation, which is a lock-in for seniors, and they lead the Football Eagles Booster Club.

She and Bill live in Brentwood with their son Austin, who is a junior at BHS. Their son Sean is a student at the University of Oklahoma. Her father, Forrest Greg Zinn, graduated from BHS in 1947.

Ann Justice

You might think it takes a loud voice and a type A personality to lead 18 first-graders all day long. It doesn’t. Ann Justice has taught at Mark Twain for 21 years, the first six in kindergarten and the past 15 in the first grade. And she’s done it with a soft voice and a calm demeanor.

“I’ve found that my students tend to take their cue from how I act,” she said.

Though somewhat soft-spoken, Justice has taken a leadership role on the district’s professional development committee. She was told that it’s one reason she was nominated for the Emerson award.

“I’ve served as one of Mark Twain’s professional development leaders for the past three or four years,” she said. “We do lots of legwork in helping determine what professional development is appropriate for the needs of the diverse staff.”

In an era when people frequently change employers, Justice has spent her entire 21-year teaching career at Mark Twain.

“It’s because of the families and the community,” she said. “It’s such a tight-knit community, and so supportive of the teachers and the school. I just love working with the people here. That’s what makes it.”

Justice lives in University City with her husband, Paul Graham.

Here’s a link to the Emerson website:



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